2020 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley CA, 94704 (510) 926.6300
Sunday thru Thursday 5:30-10pm
Friday & Saturday 5:30-11pm
Front bar opens at 5pm nightly
Sunday thru Thursday 5:30-10pm
Friday & Saturday 5:30-11pm
Front bar opens at 5pm nightly

What's In a Name?

Friday, March 1st, 2013

My family name, Gandin, is one that offers few clues to its origin; I have been frequently mistaken by others to be one of “their people”.   In culinary school, my French instructor insisted on calling me Monsieur “gan-DAN”.  When I lived in Italy, my coworkers believed that my ancestors must have come from the Veneto region of Italy.  In the Venetian dialect, the letter “I” is dropped from the end of the not uncommon Italian surname Gandini.

I am a third generation Californian, but my ancestors were Jews that emigrated from the Ukraine.  Although my upbringing was fairly secular, I did have a Bar Mitzvah and attended a Jewish summer camp in Malibu each year as a youth.   Most people don’t realize that there is actually a significant Jewish community in Mexico, centered in Mexico City.  Like most immigrants, they have assimilated into Mexican culture.  Even though it is a predominantly Catholic nation, historically the Mexican government has been surprisingly tolerant of differing faiths.

I have always been fascinated by how cuisines are transformed by the cross-pollination of different cultures.  For example, Lebanese immigrants brought the vertical spit roasting method for cooking shawarma with them, which, using local ingredients, in Mexico morphed into pork al pastor.   This year during Passover, we will be hosting two nights of Mexican-inspired seders in Abajo, our private dining room.  There will be no hagadahs, and I make no claims to the “kosherness” of this meal, only to its deliciousness.  Of course no pork will be served, and we will follow the more liberal Sephardic tradition that does allow for corn, rice, and beans during Passover.

These multi-course family-style dinners will take place in Abajo, our 20-seat private dining room, Monday, March 25 and Tuesday, March 26, commencing at 6:30 pm each night.  To purchase tickets to either seating, click on one of the following links:

March 25 dinner – http://www.ticketfly.com/event/233205

March 26 dinner – http://www.ticketfly.com/event/233209


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New Flight: A Trio of Single Village Mezcals from Alipús

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

We recently added our first flight of single village mezcals – all under the Alipús brand.  The trio of mezcals – San Juan del Rio, San Balthazar and San Andres – are all produced in the southern state of Oaxaca, ground zero for mezcal.  Each mezcal is produced using time-honored methods; agave is wood-roasted in an orno (a pit oven), juice is extracted using a horse-drawn tahona (a large millstone) and fermentation takes place in open-air vats with native, airborne yeasts.  All three use Agave Espadin (the most common agave for mezcal, though many others are also used) and are double-distilled in wood-fired, copper pot stills.   These production methods are literally the same methods that have been employed in Oaxaca for centuries and represent artisanal, craft distilling at its finest.

Despite shared geography, agave type and production methods, the three bottles have markedly different flavor profiles, making for a compelling tasting session.  Each reflect the terroir of their particular microclimate and the unique approach of each mezcalero – and each are fermented in vats of different woods.

The flight is paired with small chunks of orange and pineapple as well as our signature chicharrón salt.

San Andres (47.5% ABV) – 100% Agave Espadin from the Valley of Miahuantlan, Oaxaca with arid, calciferous soil. Distilled by Don Valante Garcia Juarez in Xitlapehua, Miahuantian, Oaxaca. Fermented in cypress vats.

San Baltazar (43% ABV) – 100% Agave Espadin from the Valley of Tiacolula, Oaxaca with rocky, calciferous soil. Distilled by Don Cosme Hernandez & son Cirilo in San Baltazar Guelavila, Tiacolula, Oaxaca.  Fermented in pine vats.

San Juan del Rio (47.2% ABV) – 100% Agave Espadin from the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca with ferriferous (iron rich) soil. Distilled by Don Joel Antonio Cruz and family in San Juan del Rio, Tlacolula, Oaxaca.  Fermented in oak vats.



Edible East Bay profile on Comal's seafood and specialty chile and herb producers

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Click here to read the Edible East Bay article.


Comal's Palomaesque gets some bitter love

Saturday, February 16th, 2013


My Picks for SF Beer Week!

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

When my managers asked me for my recommendations for large-format bottles to sell at Comal during San Francisco Beer Week, I grew wide-eyed.  As a previous employee of three different craft beer bars on the east coast, I am a self-declared beer nerd, and the words “Beer Week” make me foam at the mouth.  The opportunity to contribute to my restaurant’s already strong beer list for this special event made me excited.

I guess they weren’t looking to take all of my mere 18 suggestions, but they did pick two of my favorite ales to sell in large format bottles.  Starting tonight, Port Brewing Wipeout IPA and Lost Abbey Devotion are available to accompany your meal.

When picking beers to go with our Mexican menu, I steered clear of beers that were too sweet or too tart, nothing too floral or yeasty, and no sours or wild ales (unfortunately, as I love them very much).  Whatever I picked had to have bright and crisp qualities that would pair well with spicy, savory dishes.  Port Brewing’s Wipeout IPA came immediately to mind.  This has been one of my favorite IPAs (India Pale Ale) for years.  It’s a hop bomb, but with a decidedly citrusy edge – I often describe it as tasting like grapefruit juice with hops thrown in.  At 7%, it’s not quite light enough to have several of, but it does go down easy.  If you catch a bite of richer, spicier flavor in one of Comal’s dishes, this will cleanse your palate.

Lost Abbey Devotion is a Belgian-style golden ale.  It’s lighter than an American pale ale, but not as light or floral as a Belgian White.  It’s bready and spicy, but it finishes clean.  I imagine this will be especially well suited for our ensalada picada, hen of the woods mushroom quesadilla, and the whole chicken plato fuerte.

A well-chosen beer can pair well with any cuisine.  In addition to the two beers discussed above, we are also offering Golden State of Mind from Ale Industries (Concord, CA) and Blind Spot Dark Ale from Highwater (San Leandro, CA).  Come in and celebrate Beer Week with us! 

-Molly Schremmer